King Ludwig II
.... the Fairy Tale King
King Ludwig II is one of Bavaria's and even Germany's most glamorous celebrities. He was born on August 25, 1845. It was his love of grandiose architecture that helped to put Bavaria on the map. His palaces are considered works of art created to fulfill King Ludwig's own personal dreams. Ludwig's nickname of "the fairytale King" dates back to his time. His life came to a tragic and mysterious end on June 13th, 1886, where he was found dead in Lake Starnberg, Munich. The cause of his death remains to this day unsolved.
When Max II of Bavaria died on March 10, 1864, Ludwig II became King of Bavaria at the young age of 18-1/2. He was in no manner prepared for the responsibilities awaiting him as king of his country. However, contrary to all expectations, he took his duties very seriously, surprising the townsfolk.
One of the first steps Ludwig took during his reign was to order his court secretary Pfistermeister to find and bring to Munich the idolized composer Richard Wagner (who King Ludwig had met when he was 16 years old.) The friendship between Richard Wagner and the King, which stems from this time, was a fruitful one on both sides.
January 22, 1867, the engagement of Ludwig II to his cousin, Princess Sophie Charlotte of Bavaria, a sister of Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Sissy), took place. The marriage coach was built and commemorative medals were minted. Unexpectedly, the young King dissolved his engagement on October 10th of the same year. The monarch was never married.
During his rides on horseback and his walks through the region around Hohenschwangau Castle, Ludwig was often attracted to a spot that was especially beautiful. On a foot-hill of the Tegelberg, the so-called Schwanstein, there was a ruin of Vorderhohenschwangau Castle. Not much was left of the original castle, merely the precinct was still perceptible, and a few weather beaten remains of the wall bizarrely loomed against the sky. This was to be King Ludwig's infamous Neuschwanstein Castle.
In the Spring of 1868, the plans of reconstruction started to take shape. The remainders of the old castle were removed, water pipes laid and a road constructed so that Ludwig II could at last, on Sept. 5, 1869, lay foundation stone of what is today Neuschwanstein Castle. It took 17 years to build the castle.
The king became, after several years of wars and political drama, more and more introverted. He was very seldom seen in public. It was at this time that the first rumors of a lonely King grew, and he became known as the 'Fairly Tale King'. More than ever the King concentrated on building his castles. In the Graswang Valley near Oberammergau the construction of Linderhof Castle was started in 1874, and from 1878 on, the splendid Herrenchiemsee Castle was erected on Herren Island in the Chiemsee.
Unfortunately, the King was declared mentally ill by Dr. von Gudden and others, and therefore unfit to rule. Yet it was noted that the King was never actually examined. Nevertheless, he was taken to Berg Castle for treatment.
One evening the monarch wished to take a walk. Having gained the approval of Dr. von Gudden the two men set out in the park shortly after 6pm. Two keepers joined them but Dr. von Gudden made a sign with his hand indicating them not to follow. It is inconcievable why Dr. von Gudden eliminated this precaution. A secret that will never be revealed to us. The King and Dr. von Gudden disappeared into an arcade leading to the lake. Later that evening the two men were found floating dead in the Starnberger Lake.
During his reign, Ludwig II had schools and colleges built; , the Academy of fine Art and the Institute of Technology in Munich; he supported the arts and crafts in Bavaria through his "Wittelsbach" Foundation. He was also one of the first to support Henry Dunant's brilliant idea, the "Relief Action of the Red Cross", which soon took hold of the entire German Reich. Music lovers owe him the composition, the preservation and the recognition of most of Richard Wagner's works.
Bavaria owes alot to the reign of King Ludwig II...my hero.